Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Brave New Game World

As my present project moves ahead, time has come to pick a new map style. Before getting into this, here's a bit of background: the third Gazetteer for Calidar focuses on the elves of the Great Caldera. Right from the beginning, it was clear that this book also had to cover the place where elves came from. They did not grow on trees, although the idea crossed my mind. Actually an alien race on the main world, they emerged on a moon gravitating Calidar. After fighting each other and the gnomish wizards who'd created them (!) they eventually sailed across space to land on Calidar, along with their rivals, dwarves and humans who came from their own moons. So yes, there are three moons spinning around Calidar. Very, very loooong story short: the new Gazetteer now has to cover both the elves' realm on Calidar and their moon, Alorea.

Thorfinn Tait pledged his time and talent to render Alorea's map in the same manner as the one he'd produced for Calidar seven years earlier. This does also imply that the next two Gazetteers will each cover a realm on Calidar and its related moon. You can expect lots of maps therefore. I handed Thorfinn the coastal outlines I drafted for Alorea, the general positions of mountains, and the climate zones. From this, Thorfinn generated four topographic roughs, one for each projection style. I posted them here for your perusal.
Which one do you like best?

1. Van Der Grinten
[From Thorfinn Tait:] This is the protection I chose for Calidar itself. Its focus on the central area of the world is perfect for Calidar, as the main Great Caldera region appears front and centre. For Alorea, however, I’m not so sure. The edges of the map look progressively more and more warped, and I’m not sure this fits Alorea’s design so well.

2. Mollweide
[From Thorfinn:] The oval presentation of the world is rather distinctive. This projection is often used for palaeontological maps of the ancient Earth, and as a result ended up being used for the Mystara setting’s world map. For Alorea, it de-emphasises the poles rather nicely, as these are not really regions of interest in this world. However, the outer edges of the map appear rather warped.

3. Robinson


[From Thorfinn:] An old favourite projection dating from the 1960s, Robinson is now slightly out of date, which can be a plus when dealing with fantasy worlds. It does a good job of rendering the mid latitudes without too much warping, while not placing too much emphasis on the poles. It seems like a natural fit for Alorea in many ways.

4. Winkel-Tripel
[From Thorfinn:] A more modern take on the same concept as Robinson, and the similarity is pretty striking. The main difference for our purposes is in the depiction of the poles: Winkel Tripel places more emphasis on these areas. As such, it seems like an inferior choice to Robinson for Alorea.

[Back to me:] You're welcome to vote in the related poll, or to comment about these maps. Now's a good time to let us know what you like or don't like. I posted the poll in Calidar's Facebook group (click here to visit).

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Who Killed the GOP?

Just so you get where I stand.

I’m neither defending the GOP as it’s become today nor am I attracted by the ideals of the pre-Trump Republican Party. The truth is that the real Grand Old Party is dead. It had been drifting for some years before Trump and his enablers killed it. But this is neither here nor there: what matters is that a democracy needs more than one single party to work. With only one side calling the shots, there is no democracy. I’d be a dictatorship or a monarchy, whatever. A democracy requires at least two parties with the desire and ability to work together and come up with the best solutions to our future’s challenges. Without these components, a democracy is broken. This is what we have now.

Clearly, Trump’s party refuses to discuss anything or cooperate with anyone aside from what the guy the WH wants. Worse, it is willing to misguide and tear down a nation and its people in order to have its way. Trump and his hateful, corrupt enablers need to be rooted out of Washington. In order for this to happen, you have to vote accordingly. If you do so, you’re not selling your soul for all eternity. You’re not marrying into the other party until death do you part. There is no shame or dishonor in using the tools democracy provides to do what must be done. Afterward, people should endeavor to rebuild a GOP with honorable, constructive folks. It may take four years, eight, twelve: whatever it needs. In the long run, we all benefit, even though we may not agree on ideologies. Demonizing, denying, looking away, lying, hurting, or destroying will solve nothing because they only beget more of the same.

Some people relish tearing down things around them. They do it mostly out of misdirected anger or to lash out at symbols they’ve been told to hate. Though the instigators are quite good at sowing chaos, these people aren’t the kind who can build anything besides walls (and even that’s in question). It’s not what they do, and in any case, it takes far longer to build than to destroy something worthwhile. Never forget this, because if you do, you may no longer enjoy democracy in your lifetime. Everyone loses.




Do the right thing.




Tuesday, August 25, 2020

D&D: Sky Warriors of Phrydias

Here's an oldie I originally posted on EN World more than 4 years ago. It's actually part of CC1 Beyond the Skies. I bet a number of people haven't seen this. This excerpt introduces an order of half-elven knights who ride giant eagles. Their base of operation is a circular structure hanging from a gigantic balloon.

CC1 FLOOR PLAN Phrydias Seminary for EnWorld .png

This order of half-elven knights originally formed in honor of an epic hero by the name of Bambathiel. His legends tell of the first recorded case of a Calderan eagle being tamed as a mount. The giant raptors are reputed for being particularly difficult to approach, let alone to befriend and ride like a horse. Magic sometimes works in this respect, but followers of Thaëldar see this as an insult to their deity. For them, Calderan eagles embody their Lord of the Skies. Being entrusted with one is nothing less than a holy gift requiring utmost respect and devotion.

Bambathiel died in a fight with a night howler, a great beast of evil that had been preying on Calderan eagles in the Kaël Mountains. Though he who became known as the First Knight defeated his mythical foe, his wounds and those of his majestic mount were awash with deadly poison. No prior in Phrydias could stop its spreading, and both died in writhing pain. The High-Prior of Thaëldar prayed for their return to life, but the Great God of the Skies decided to keep them both at his side. Since then, faithful followers of Thaëldar, those who are pure of thought and brave at heart, have created the Order of Sky Warriors in memory of their fallen hero. Bambathiel and Oba Eagle-Lord together became scions of the cult and the order’s spiritual protectors.

The night howler is an enormous beast that sometimes appears late at night. It is born from the nightmares of slumbering evil Phrydians, and vanishes before dawn. What is unclear, however, is why so many people would make the same horrid dream during one fateful night. No Bongorese literature had ever mentioned night howlers. A sect of malevolent wizards or perhaps a demon are thought to be at work, summoning the beast when the moons are right, perhaps as the consequence of an unholy ritual planting seeds of evil into many a weaker or disturbed mind. Priors of Thaëldar have come to believe that in the heart of the eagles lies great spiritual power, which the wicked covet for their evil deeds. What they do with such wondrous power remains a mystery. As the beast unexpectedly rises again to wreak havoc upon Thaëldar’s flock, the knights scramble to deny the odious harvest. In truth, the beast springs from a curse. It was cast by the demon-prince Kokumo, when Thaëldar cast his spear at him.

This order is the armed chapter of the Faith of Thaëldar. Aside from safeguarding breeds of eagles small and large, they live to protect of the Sky God’s temples in Phrydias and elsewhere. A contingent resides in northwestern Alfdaín where the cult has found significant following. Their ethos is neither fundamentally malevolent or purely benevolent. Their philosophy concerns more specifically the order of all things in the universe. Most members of Thaëldar’s fanatical legion stick together as a military organization. Others ride their fabulous mounts, travelling the world in search of clues about who or what lies behind the summoning of night howlers. They are avengers, adventuring warriors looking for a worthy cause for the purpose of acquiring goodwill toward their quest and their faith. Their beneficiaries are to watch for defilers of great eagles and for clues about the night howlers, and alert them if such comes about. Following the belief that evil doers dwell in evil places, sky warriors aren’t loath to exploring dungeons and other places of despair, for hints may lie there was well.

Isn’t a knight anyone who desires it. Prerequisites include being at least a pious follower of Thaëldar. In this regard, race is not an issue. To become a squire, one must already be a fine warrior or a skilled prior (one with the experience of at least a dozen worthwhile dungeon expeditions should qualify). A time will come when the squire will have to seek out a giant eagle’s nest high in the Kaël Mountains and earn its occupant’s respect, a perilous quest on its own. Magic of any kind, clerical or otherwise, is not permitted, and the squire must act alone. Should a glorious fate shine upon the squire, an egg will be available for the taking. It must be safely returned to the order’s sanctum, wherein its new owner will have to care for it until it hatches. The squire must raise the young eagle, nurture its growth, earn its loyalty, and train it as a mount.

Note: The remainder of the chapter goes on about 
risks and rewards of being a knight, and creating a player-character. You'll find all this in CC1 Beyond the Skies

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

D&D: Don't Eat the Purple Lotus

            The so-called purple lotus is a very strange creature. It grows in shallow waters, on ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. Its bloom closes up at dawn and sinks below the surface during the day. When it emerges to take in the light of stars and the moons, the purple lotus is resplendent in its shimmers glowing from indigo to deep violet. Its petals wither and fall off over time for others to replace them, curling up and taking the appearance of a mound of gold coins under the water, around and beneath the plant. Withered petals turn into decaying muck when scooped up. The oddities do not end there.

Golden Lotus Field by Samantha Genier, Deviantart. ©2013 Samantha Genier.
            These flowers grow in large patches of at least 10 plants, each one about 10’ apart from at least two others. They do not grow below ground, unless they can receive moonlight which they need to survive along with nutrients from the ground. All of them connect through a network of roots. Called a prime, one among them is a sentient being able to see and hear through each of the surrounding plants. Their number indicates how intelligent the prime is: min. 9, +1 for every 10 lotuses above the first 10. It takes about ten years for a prime to sharpen its mind by a mere point. With an Int of 10, it can cast druidic spells as a level 2 cleric, +2 experience levels per point of Int above 10). There isn’t a limit to how intelligent a prime can grow, but anything above 18 is extremely rare. Such large patches usually breed another prime that leaves with 10-40 plants to establish its own colony. The chart below summarizes the progression.

Prime Lotus Intelligence
Number of Plants
Intelligence
HD
Spellcasting Level
10
9
1
none
20
10
2
2nd
30
11
3
4th
40
12
4
6th
50
13
5
8th
60
14
6
10th
70
15
7
12th
80
16
8
14th
90
17
9
16rd
100
18
10
18th

            The prime looks like the surrounding plants, unless someone leans over its bloom and observes its pistil, which will reveal a pair of tiny eyes looking back. It can cast its spells through any of the surviving plants. Although it cannot speak, the prime can respond telepathically to visitors able to speak with plants. The prime is also able to produce written material from its leaves, their veins forming a natural script unique to the region. Local monsters with animal intelligence or better have learned to avoid lotus patches.

Purple Lotus: AC 9 (unarmored), HD 1*, 5 hp, MV 30 (10’), AT 1 cloud, D nil, Save F1, Int 1, ML n/a, AL Neutral, Size: S, XP 13.
            Abilities: Cloud of pollen.
Prime Lotus: AC 9 (unarmored), HD 1-10********, 5-50 hp, MV 30 (10’), AT 1 cloud or spell, D nil of by spell, Save F1-10, Int 9-18, ML 7, AL Neutral, Size: S, XP 13-7,000.
            Abilities: Cloud of pollen; spellcasting as a druid (see chart for experience level).

            When disturbed, these plants shoot a cloud of pollen about 30’x30’x30’ large (enough to fill its 10’x10’ space and eight others immediately adjacent). Each lotus can release a new cloud every 3d4 rounds. The pollen acts as a narcotic for anyone failing a saving throw. Each cloud requires a separate roll. Failing the first check results in several penalties: move at 1/3 MV, cannot cast spells, –2 penalty to AC, saves, and attack rolls. With a second failure, victims stand by the closest mound of fake gold and defend their “treasures” against anyone approaching. With a third failure, victims fall unconscious for another 3d4 hours and possibly drown in the shallow water; golden pollen covers their clothes and exposed skins, and takes 3d6 days to come off.

            The prime lotus will cast its spells at anyone or anything threatening its patch. Its intelligence and spellcasting ability drop according to the number of plants killed. If the prime is destroyed, the entire patch withers and dies. If victims are lying unconscious among the plants after the fight ends, the surviving patch will move to another location. A patch can also move at the behest of the prime at MV 30’/Turn (180’/hour or about 1½ mile per day). They pull up their roots and use either the prevailing westward wind or the water’s weak downstream current.
            Purple lotus patches are more common on far eastern coastal lands which possess many rivers, streams, and lakes. In their own way, they are akin to human clans and are able to communicate by discarding one of their own to carry a message to another patch. The prime can cast a create water spell variant maintaining a safe depth for its patch to survive a drought, or raising the surface of an enclosed body of water. The spell lasts for 24 hours and raises the surface level about 1” per hour (2’ per day). The area affected must be no more than 90’ across plus 10’ per HD, otherwise reduce the speed at which the water rises accordingly.

Black Lotus: Far more uncommon than the purple lotus is one that is undead. Those patches have fallen prey to a water hag, a horrid creature that corrupted and cursed them to guard its lair’s entrance below the surface. It is perhaps the only extant case of an undead creature able to cast druidic spells.
            The hag awaits in deeper, darker waters, dragging into her lair victims falling unconscious. Back lotus pollen is poisonous to exposed skin, inflicting 1d4 hp of unhealable damage per day (no save). Magical or natural healing may resume after the pollen wears off. Those who die of this poison rise 1d4+4 hours later as wights. A cleric can Turn a black lotus patch as an undead corresponding to its prime’s HD. The Turn attempt requires a score high enough to result in the destruction of the undead, in which case the entire patch is destroyed. Black lotuses are generally found in bayous, swamps, or waterlogged moors.

Source: The map was cropped and altered from the revised climate chart by Thorfinn Tait, available as a poster map on DTRPG ©2019 Bruce A. Heard. The purple lotuses as fantasy creatures constitute original content ©2020 Bruce A. Heard.


Sunday, July 19, 2020

Moana's Stingray Cove

Something I've been tinkering with on the side: a spot under the tropics where one can relax with a margarita, enjoying a marine breeze and the sight of a turquoise sea crashing on the nearby beach. Since vacations aren't in the cards these days, I figured I'd dream a bit and make it a Calidar feature as well. Those of you with PG1 "Players' Guide to Meryath" will recognize this place. Feel free to adapt this material to your game.




Click on the map for a full-res view
Moana's Stingray Cove is a greasy spoon for pirates and thieves rather than a vacation resort. Its bar faces a wooden deck. The front and sides are open, save for fishing nets and ropes adorned with sea-themed decorations like shells, bits or coral, and ship gear. An old sail stretches overhead from the main building to surrounding wooden posts. Beach bums often sit out front at sunset, by a campfire. Sturdy shutters above the bar's countertop can be swung down and locked after business hours to close off the deck area from the building. The entire structure sits on posts, about two feet above the sandy surface. The ground floor includes a kitchen, a pantry, and staircase to the upper level. The area beneath the stairs is walled off, although a removable panel may conceal ill-gotten gains stored there, as well as a one-way passage leading under the house.

Odd detail: A woodstove is used to prepare hot meals. The fireplace, though a pile of ashes lies within, is not in use. A cauldron sits inside, with some bone-dry, crusted mealy remains. The reason for this is that a tall mast stands inside the chimney conduit. It is invisible, therefore someone would have to search the ashes to feel the mast's presence. Reaching well above the building's roof, it supports a crow's nest (equally invisible). It is used to keep an eye on the neighborhood.

Click on the map for a full-res view
The staircase runs past a gallery on its right hand side (going up). In case of trouble, rogues might stand there, ready to shoot their crossbows over the railing, down at unwanted visitors. A number of eye symbols show the position of peep holes to spy on various places on that floor. The main room is a place where those in the know meet to plan future missions. The owner's bedchamber opens on a balcony. Ratlines connect its left side railing to a trapdoor in the crow's nest floor. They are invisible like the mast. Two unusual features might catch the eye of observant PCs. Three large metal bolts protrude from the railing (securing the ratlines' lower end). A part of the building's roof is indented to make room for the intervening ratlines.

Click on the map for a full-res view
Anyone investigating the bolts can feel the unseen ratlines. Anyone climbing the ratlines also becomes invisible, and can plainly see the hidden structure. Yardarms jut out from under the crow's nest. From there, it is easy to push open the trapdoor and climb onto the platform. Gunwale-like railing secures the spot, and a wooden roof protects occupants from the tropical sun. A watcher always occupies the crow's nest, relying on a magical scroll to communicate with the cove's owner. If alerted of a potential piracy target sailing by, the owner uses a similar device to tip off nearby pirates. I'm sure you got the idea.

Yardarm, Ratlines, Roof Indentation
Fighting on the roof is definitely an idea. Someone trying to flee could easily jump into the fronds of an adjacent palm tree, or leap onto the sail stretched above the bar's deck. It is old, but it might still hold someone's weight, or at least soften a fall.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Delayed Spell Memorization for BECMI

An idea crossed my mind about the (entirely optional) ability of magic-users to leave a few slots “open” while they spend their required hour to memorize spells for the rest of the day. The objective is to allow them the ability to memorize one or more of these open slots at a later time.

Red Wizard of Thay--Learning New Spells © 2015-2020 Winterkeep
            The math is simple: if it takes a ninth level spellcaster an hour to memorize 12 spell levels, therefore each spell level should require no more than 30 rounds—using BECMI rounds and turns. The math is different in other versions of the game, since their timeframes work differently. Whether a DM should allow this option is entirely up in the air, but I thought I’d bring it up for the sake of reference.
            The initial memorization process at the beginning of each day should always take the recommended 60 minutes, regardless of whether slots are left open. Assume these open slots require some mental prep work at the beginning of the day. Delayed memorization can therefore take place, at the rate of 30 rounds per spell level for a ninth level magic-user or just 5 rounds per spell level for a wizard with maximum possible experience.
            A magic-user should not be able to combine open slots to cast higher level spells. For example: one cannot combine slots left open for second- and third-level spells in order to cast a fifth-level spell; delayed memorization only concerns spells of the same or lower levels as those open slots. Given the chart below, the option becomes attractive once a spell level requires a turn or less to memorize. This makes spellcasters, including clerics (if they need to pray for their spells in advance), a lot more versatile and dangerous.

Process =         1           Hour
                       6           Turns Lasting 10mn each
                      360         Rounds of 10 seconds each

Spell Memorization Speed
(D&D BECMI, B/X, Lab Lord, Dark Dungeons, etc.)
XP Levels
Spell Levels
Total Spell Levels
Mem. Time per Spell Level
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Rounds
Turns
1
1
1
360
6
2
2
2
180
3
3
2
1
3
120
2
4
2
2
4
90
2
5
2
2
1
5
72
2
6
2
2
2
6
60
1
7
3
2
2
1
8
45
8
3
3
2
2
10
36
9
3
3
3
2
1
12
30
10
3
3
3
3
2
14
26
11
4
3
3
3
2
1
16
23
12
4
4
4
3
2
1
18
20
13
4
4
4
3
3
2
20
18
14
5
4
4
4
3
2
1
23
16
15
5
4
4
4
3
2
1
23
16
16
5
5
5
4
3
2
2
26
14
17
6
5
5
4
4
3
2
29
13
18
6
5
5
4
4
3
2
1
30
12
Etc.
36
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
9
81
5